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The Davidoff Legacy

The world-famous brand's former Cuban cigar remains a highly sought-after collectible
James Suckling
From the Print Edition:
Emeril Lagasse, Sept/Oct 2005

Reprinted from the October 2005 issue of Cigar Aficionado.

The world-famous brand's former Cuban cigar remains a highly sought-after collectible Late last spring, I smoked a Davidoff cigar in London with the company's top executive, Ernst Schneider, and the "C" word came up in the conversation. Cuba is not a favorite subject with Davidoff officials since the Swiss company stopped making cigars on the island in 1991 and moved its production to the Dominican Republic. But Cuba is still something the firm needs to come to grips with because Cuban Davidoffs were some of the greatest cigars ever produced.

Even the 84-year-old Schneider admitted that Davidoff Cuban cigars have enhanced his company's reputation and that, in general, the smokes were very good quality. "They certainly do not hurt our image in the world," he said. "They can be very good cigars."

The brief conversation occurred in London during a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the opening of the city's Davidoff cigar shop, owned by one of the world's great cigar merchants, Edward Sahakian. We smoked a cigar that Sahakian had commissioned for his shop's birthday, a 6 1/4 inch long by 42 ring gauge Davidoff with a special label commemorating the day. It was a strong yet smooth smoke from the Dominican Republic. Strangely, it was stronger than many Cuban cigars being made today.

Sahakian was the one who originally turned me on to Davidoff Cubans. Back in 1983, I visited his shop as a young journalist with the Wine Spectator magazine. I asked him about the various Davidoff cigars that carried the names of some of Bordeaux's most famous wine estates, such as Chateau Latour, Margaux and Haut-Brion. Sahakian couldn't have been more helpful; not only did he describe how cigar guru Zino Davidoff created the Chateau series, he also explained how the Cubans took great care to produce the cigars.

But more importantly, Sahakian gave me my first Davidoff. I must have been sitting down for about 15 seconds in his shop at 35 St James's Street before he offered me an Ambassadrice, a small panetela with plenty of flavor. I was excited about the brand from that moment forward and I tried to smoke the cigars as often as possible.

What struck me about the Davidoff—even with a debutant's palate—was its balance and harmony. The cigars were rich and flavorful, yet elegant and refined at the same time. They delivered lots of flavor, but left your palate feeling clean and refreshed. Moreover, if you smoked one after dinner, the next morning your mouth didn't feel as if you had been chewing tobacco in your sleep.

Davidoff Cubans are still like that—even more so. Aged Davidoffs are some of the cleanest, finest smokes available, even though they haven't been made for more than a decade. I recently smoked a number of them during a trip to Hong Kong, and one after another was fantastic, delivering a purity of flavor that is hard to find in any cigar today. The Davies I smoked included the 1000, 4000, Haut-Brion and No. 2. The latter, which resembles the six-inch, 38-ring Cohiba Coronas Especial, was superb and it came from a cedar box of 50 cigars that were wrapped in a palm leaf.

I told one of the Davidoff executives with Schneider at the Davidoff shop in London about my experience in Hong Kong, and he immediately said that the cigars were fakes. His eyes widened in disbelief when I told him that I had been in a cigar shop on the island that was selling just about every Cuban Davidoff ever made, and that its biggest selling smoke was the Davidoff Haut-Brion—one of my favorite smokes.

"That's impossible," he said. "They have to be fakes."

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